1st April, 2011, Friday – Radhanath Swami addresses two thousand youth of Mumbai on a subject of global importance: Is nature to be loved or feared? A preliminary step in answering this question is to open our minds and to see through the eyes of sacred wisdom.
Just as a visually impaired person needs proper lenses to see, similarly when influenced by the cataract of selfish ego, we need to remove the obstruction to restore our natural lenses. Then we can see a higher dimension of reality. This vision can empower us to have meaningful relationships with God, nature, and each other.
Confusion arises due to nature’s striking contrasts. On one hand she manifests enthralling beauty and on the other, catastrophes. While our minds are soothed by a gentle ocean breeze on a full moon night, the next day may bring the horror of a hurricane. While the sweet singing of a nightingale enthralls our hearts as we stroll through a fragrant forest, at the next moment an earthquake could shake us to the core and inundate us with a tsunami of misery; is nature nice or not nice?
The mysteries of Mother Nature sometimes appear irreconcilable. Even in the most pleasant conditions, by the power of time we all must get old, diseased and eventually die. There is potential danger, even in the most beautiful aspects of nature. We do not know what the next moment will bring.
Nature works in fascinating ways. While an earthquake can devastate a nation, a tiny, unseeable germ can also be the agent of death. The Bubonic plague swept through Europe in the 14th century slaying an estimated 75 million people, almost half of the population. It was spread by tiny fleas. Whether it’s a massive tsunami or an invisible germ, there is always danger in this world.
The ultimate destroyer is Time. Time is so subtle and fine that we can’t touch it, feel it, or hear it but even the most powerful militaries can’t check its advances, even for a second. Time cannot be bribed by money, seduced by beauty or defeated by philosophy. With each passing moment, time is in the process of pulverizing mountains, evaporating oceans, extinguishing the sun and obliterating the earth. That is the power of time.
However, if we broaden our vision, we can see the inherent beauty underlying all of the apparently contradicting characteristics of Nature. This vision is built upon the foundation of an understanding that ultimately there is no death or destruction. It’s simply a perception. Our wisdom texts teach us that all living beings are spirit souls, residing within temporary bodies. This pure life force (the soul) is unborn and undying, and is a sacred part of God. Just as a spark of the sun is qualitatively the same as the sun, the soul is eternally endowed with Godly qualities.
Ancient scriptures of the east like the Bhagavad Gita reveal that the soul cannot be cut by weapons, burnt by fire or drowned by water. It’s not slain when the body is slain. Interestingly, matter cannot be destroyed, it is simply transformed. If the body is burnt, the water element enters the atmosphere and the ashes merge with the earth. While materially the body merges with nature, spiritually we are transcendental to the temporary conditions of matter. When we see our existence from the light of this truth, our paradigm shifts and we see nature differently.
While the understanding of the eternity of the soul can enlighten and empower us, immature spiritualists have the tendency to corrupt this knowledge with extreme interpretations. One extreme approach to is to declare this world to be an illusion and to be indifferent to the sufferings of innocent people. This leads to hard heartedness and apathy to the problems of this world.
A spiritually uninformed person may also hover on the other extreme and consider this world to be all in all. This can lead to blind attachments that result in bewilderment, frustration, depression or sometimes cruelty when things don’t work out the way we expect. The Bhagavad Gita teaches us to balance our lives; to understand that we are eternal spirit souls while honoring material nature and cultivating feelings of compassion for the body, mind and soul of ourselves and others. A genuine spiritualist accepts the suffering of others as his or her own and finds joy in other people’s happiness.
A genuine spiritualist feels compassion for all living beings-humans as well as animals and other species- because he realizes that everyone is a sacred part of God, who is the father and mother of all living entities. Thus a spiritualist extends love and compassion to all, without egoistic, selfish conditions. This is enlightenment.
From this perspective, tragedies such as the recent devastation of Japan and Haiti bring about a serious, heartfelt compassion to help by offering both philanthropic and spiritual aid. There is widespread suffering around the world such as oppressive governments, poverty, disease or mental anxiety. We should all try to do our part however little or big it may be. A compassionate heart also extends to those apparently fortunate people with wealth, health and success, who forgetful of their eternal nature are being consumed by time, on the road to death.
Spiritual education is required for, as far as possible, prevention of future tragedies. Such education informs people how the laws of nature work. Violence to any sentient being sows the seeds of violent reactions both individually and collectively and excessive exploitation of nature’s resources will be returned with disaster.
Compassion begins toward oneself. It can be exercised by cultivating spiritual vision, regularly purifying the mind through spiritual practices and learning to live in harmony with God, nature and all of our sisters and brothers. True humanity is to utilize all of our God given talents and facilities as instruments of kindness toward nature and others. The spirit of service is a sacred foundation for goodness in the world. This can help us remain sober and happy even during calamities and upheavals.
The fearful situations created by nature can be an impetus to take shelter of God’s love. Mother nature has her own ways of cleansing the earth. Sometimes parents may be compelled to scare their rebellious and disobedient small children, just to warn them of the consequences of irresponsible behavior and protect them from harming themselves. Similarly, the harsh reactions of Mother Nature can sober us and help us understand what will really make us happy. Our ultimate happiness lies in loving God, nature and each other.
When love for God over floods the heart, fear disappears from our lives. The more you have, the more you fear losing it. However when a spiritualist takes shelter of God through the culture of prayer and service to all of God’s children, God charms the heart of such a seeker beyond the charms of this world. We can then see the loving hand of God extended to us in all situations. It also makes us soft-hearted and equips us to serve others with love.
The members of our congregation in Mumbai have served people in disasters such as the earthquakes in Bhuj (Gujarat, India), and Latur (Maharashtra, India) and the tsunami in Southeast India. The hospital volunteers accepted the natural duty to help people at all levels- such as providing medical and nutritional needs and helping rebuild homes. They also provided emotional support through education, encouragement and caring friendship. We found that the victims most appreciated the spiritual care they received in the form of satsanga and kirtan as it empowered them to see through the lenses of truth and opened the doors to realize the unending happiness of the soul.
Our nature is to seek happiness. The origin and culmination of our pursuit of happiness is in re-connecting with God’s love within our hearts. This happiness awakens us to the spiritual platform and helps us lend meaning and substance to the lives of all.
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